Affinity's Reign

Posted in Feature on February 28, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Alright, I'll start off with last week's Standard recap. This will be the last time that I will cover online Standard before Planar Chaos becomes legal, as the release events will replace Constructed Premiers soon. The information in this table is actually real. Good thing nothing is banned in the healthy Standard format.

Deck namePopularityChange from last week
1. Mono Green Aggro■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (13%)+10% (!!!)
2. Dralnu du Louvre■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (12%)-14% (!!!)
3. Dragonstorm■■■■■ ■■■■■ (10%)-9% (!!!)
4. W/B Control ■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)+3%
5. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+4%
6. U/W Urzatron■■■■■ ■■ (7%)0%
7. GhaziGlare■■■■■ (5%)+3%
8. Angelfire variants ■■■■ (4%)-6% (!!!)
9.Ignite the Warrens ■■■ (3%)+2%
10. U/G PickleTron ■■■ (3%)+1%
11. U/G Scryb & Force■■■ (3%)-6% (!!!)
12.G/B Dredge■■■ (3%)+1%
13. Panda Connection■■■ (3%)+3%
14. Black Rack Discard■■■ (3%)+1%
15. U/W CounterMesa ■■ (2%)+2%
16. R/B Gargadon■■ (2%)+2%
17. W/B Rack Discard ■■ (2%)+2%
18. U/b Pickles■ (1%)-1%
19. SnakeBlink ■ (1%)0%
20. U/W/G Control■ (1%)+1%

Some late heavy swings as everyone is gearing up for the addition of the Planar Chaos cards. I'd think that Dralnu du Louvre is the best deck in the format, even though Mono Green Aggro had a good showing this week.

Let's move on to the Extended metagame recap. The last time I went over the online Extended metagame was one month ago, and then we saw that Affinity took roughly half of the Premier Event Top 8 slots. I have collected the results of last month's Extended Premier Event Top 8s once again, averaged them, and put the metagame in a table. What deck do you expect to come out on top?

Deck namePopularity
1. Affinity■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (41%)
2. Spree of Hate■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (18%)
3. Tomborid■■■■■ ■■ (7%)
4. D+ Suited■■■■ (4%)
5. Psychatog■■■■ (4%)
6. Power Rangers■■ (2%)
7. Elf Clamp■■ (2%)
8. Goblins■■ (2%)
9. KarstenBot-
BabyLover
■■ (2%)
10. U/W Tron■■ (2%)
11. Friends of the Rock■■ (2%)
12. Astral Cyclers■ (1%)
13. The Slayer Effect■ (1%)
14. Scepter-Opposition■ (1%)
15. U/B/P ■ (1%)
16. Diek-Fish■ (1%)
17. Ninja Snake■ (1%)
18. Trinket and Nail■ (1%)
19. Boros Deck Loses■ (1%)
20. Heartbeat Bom-bo■ (1%)

Surprise, surprise, Affinity is still the best. Affinity has kept the number one deck spot for two full years now, and there does not appear to be any reason for its dominance to end anytime soon. Boring? Perhaps. But if you want to win an Extended tournament, there is only one correct choice: Affinity. Attendance on Extended events isn't that high anymore, with most Premier Events struggling to find 24 players. But I can understand that, since the metagame is basically just Affinity and anti-Affinity. In other words, it's extremely tedious, and therefore no one really enjoys playing this stale format online.

Oh well. For the few people who still like online Extended, here is what a typical Affinity version looks like nowadays (like you didn't know, unless you had been hiding under a rock the past years):

Affinity


Skullclamp

The synergy between Arcbound Ravager, Frogmite, and artifact lands is still strong as ever. As we all know, this deck is capable of getting degenerate draws. A common example is:

Turn 1: Artifact land, Aether Vial
Turn 2: Artifact land, Arcbound Ravager, Frogmite, Vial out a Disciple of the Vault
Turn 3: Vial out another Disciple, play some more artifacts, attack with all creatures, and eat everything with Arcbound Ravager to put your opponent down to a negative life total. Thanks for playing.

If the opposing deck can fend off these ridiculously fast draws, that doesn't mean the game is over. Affinity can easily reload with the extremely powerful Skullclamp, attaching it to 1-toughness creatures to draw two cards right away or to larger creatures that can then be sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager for two cards. This allows Affinity to basically draw its entire deck quickly, right into the dreaded Arcbound Ravager plus Disciple of the Vault combo for the kill.

The second most popular online Extended deck is more or less built to exclusively beat Affinity. Here is a common version of the affectionately called "Spree of Hate" deck:

Spree of Hate


Shattering Spree

If you have a grounded hate for Affinity, you should run this deck - it's the best you can do. It has maindeck Kataki, War's Wage as well as Shattering Spree to make life difficult for artifacts. And it doesn't stop there. The hate continues with maindeck Ancient Grudge, Artifact Mutation, Oxidize, and even Tin Street Hooligan. It may seem awkward to run this many specific anti-artifact cards in the main, but the Affinity deck is so ridiculously good and hence so popular in the online events that every other round you will get paired against Affinity. Spree of Hate is pretty much the only deck in the format that has a good matchup against Affinity, and for that reason Spree of Hate was the second most popular deck in last month's online tournaments.

Strangely enough, though, games against a solid Affinity player are never an utter blow-out, more like a 60-40% matchup. Even with a ridiculous amount of artifact hate in the maindeck, the deck still isn't guaranteed to beat Affinity. Sure, Affinity can never keep many artifacts on the table against this deck, but if it starts off with a Darksteel Citadel or Blinkmoth Nexus, then it can still cast some spells and stand a fair fighting chance. Moreover, if a Disciple of the Vault can stick on the board, then the Spree of Hate deck is in very bad shape, as every destruction spell will fire back for a point of damage. Lastly, if Spree of Hate stumbles and allows Affinity to equip a Myr Retriever with Skullclamp, then the Affinity deck can usually regain enough resources to get back in the game. Nonetheless, Spree of Hate does tend to beat Affinity more often than not. Fortunately…

This month's third most popular online deck is an old favorite that has resurfaced lately: Tomborid. It is actually like an anti-anti-Affinity deck, because it tends to do very well against the Spree of Hate decks floating around.

Tomborid


Entomb

This deck doesn't even run a single artifact, dodging all the Affinity hate as a result. It builds on the overpowered Entomb, which aims to put a Golgari Grave-Troll in the graveyard for dredge purposes. The deck can actually start to dredge as early as in the first draw step if the pieces fall right, since it can use a lucky Gemstone Caverns to play Entomb on the opponent's first turn before your first draw step. This deck attempts to break the dredge mechanic with Ichorid. You dredge as often as you can, and then start to return some dudes with haste back from the 'yard. Entomb also allows the deck to find a missing piece of the all-important "combo" of Sutured Ghoul plus Krosan Cloudscraper plus Dragon Breath. That makes for a huge hasty lethal creature, and a flashbacked Dread Return (sacrificing Ichorids and Nether Traitors) will happily put it in play.

In Other News…

I'd like to take this moment to congratulate Kenji Tsumura, the winner of last weekend's GP Dallas. He took the tournament with a completely off-the radar Aggro Loam build, once again proving the sheer genius of Japanese deck building. No one had seen this deck before, and it blew everyone out. Whereas many of the current Standard decks have been developed on Magic Online, that has not been the case for Extended. Because everyone is just playing Affinity and anti-Affinity decks online, completely out of synch with the paper metagame (where some vital Affinity cards are banned), Magic Online is not a useful testing ground for paper Extended tournaments.

Classic Tribal Wars 4x Open

Tribal Wars is a casual Magic Online format that emphasizes creature combat: One-third of every deck must be of a single creature type. A Classic Tribal Wars 4x Premier Event took place last weekend, so I figured it would be nice to bring coverage. After 11 grueling rounds, FakeShaver was the winner. This up-and-coming Magic Online superstar took the tournament by storm with his Wizards deck.

Tribal Wizards

He beat Dirve's Goblin deck in the quarterfinals with a turn-three Engineered Plague in both games, prompting a quick concession. He then faced a mirror match in the semifinals, and in the deciding third game he drew 3 Umezawa's Jitte as opposed to his opponent's 2 copies. The last equipment standing won the game. He eventually beat Sti's Angel deck (which ran the neat interaction between Aether Vial and Serra Avenger) in the finals, by using Tsabo's Decree to annihilate his opponent's board and hand. Well done, nice deck, but perhaps something should be done about these degenerate cards. Tsabo's Decree in a format where everyone plays 20 creatures of the same type is pretty ridiculous.

Tsabo's Decree

Sea's Rule Preview

I am pleased to inform you that in three weeks from now, the newest Magic Online-only expansion set Sea's Rule will finally be released to live, completing the first Magic Online-only block. This set will not be available in your local card stores; it is an exclusive promotional set that only appears on Magic Online players. It will include only blue cards - no other colors are necessary, blue is simply the best - and it is filled to the brim with countermagic and blue creatures. We have pirates, flying fish, squids, krakens, merfolks, leviathans, and more.

Join me next week, when I preview a Sea's Rule card that will fit perfectly in the Kraken archetype!


What is 'What If?' Week?

It's "What If?" Week here on magicthegathering.com, and in the spirit of Planar Chaos, we're presenting you with a variety of "What If?" alternate reality scenarios. Some of them, like Mark Rosewater's column, explain the premise up-front; others, Kelly Digges’s feature article, encourage you to figure out the "What If?" on your own. Ask Wizards and Card of the Day are in on the fun as well, containing implied "What If?" questions, but Arcana is "normal" – we didn't feel alternate reality scenarios would play well in that format. Thanks for reading, and enjoy "What If?" Week!

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